From the Friday, July 24 Oregonian....
If "Orphan" had gone just a little further over-the-top, we might have had a truly crazy midnight movie on our hands.
It's a thriller telling the story of two clueless Yuppie parents (Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard) who adopt a 9-year-old Russian orphan (Isabelle Fuhrman) named Esther. Esther slowly reveals herself to be a homicidal nutjob with a ruthlessly adult talent for mind-games; it's as if she were secretly reared by abusive Eastern-bloc gangsters who handed her a box-cutter and told her, "Go play with the foolish Americans." (The truth is actually stranger than that.)
When Esther is unleashed in full wack-job mode -- glaring and setting fires and screeching and swearing and corrupting the natural-born kids in the house and doing wet grisly things with knives and rocks -- "Orphan" is campy bad-seed horror-comedy fun. (If they cast Fuhrman as the vampire in the planned American adaptation of "Let the Right One In," I might even give that remake a chance.) All the children in the film give unusually subtle performances for this kind of flick, and Farmiga and Sarsgaard find a couple of nice interpersonal moments. Throw in one clever twist, an opening dream sequence straight out of "It’s Alive" and Karel Roden turning up to give a loopy bit of exposition, and there are enough insane moments to make this a worthy midnight rental.
Unfortunately, you'll have to fast-forward through a lot of that rental, because the movie pads the good stuff out with a bunch of mediocre mainstream-thriller junk. It takes too long to get started, it pulls some key punches, its dialogue is deeply uninteresting, it relies way too heavily on endless jump-scares and its finale is pure slasher-flick, cat-and-mouse, multiple-endings formula.
Anyway, I'm recommending the movie with this boulder-sized grain of salt: If you see it in a theater, you'll best enjoy it if you regard the wacked-out stuff as the marbits in an otherwise bland bowl of Lucky Charms._____
(123 min.; rated R for disturbing violent content, some sexuality and language) Grade: C
'Orphan' (The Oregonian, Friday, July 24, 2009)